Sunday, 11 October 2015

Vegan Travel Guides to Taiwan

While I continue to use this blog to offer free information about vegan food in Taiwan, I have taken the step of selling travel guides especially for vegans. While I like giving information away free, these books are the result of several months off work, including many weeks 'on the road' doing research, so it's necessary to charge a small amount. If you are looking for information on vegan food, labelling, language and other basic survival information, it's all here on this blog, and Happycow is also useful (but see warnings below). If you would like a guidebook which also covers where to go and what to see in Taiwan, how to get around and stay safe, and to better understand the culture and history of this beautiful country, all written from a vegan perspective, then I invite you to consider a Vegan Travel Guide to Taiwan.

Latest Updates

This guide was last updated in June (2018) with the opening of Hooch, a vegan bar attached to the famous Ooh Cha Cha, which is now the best option for a late meal in Taipei, perhaps after a trip up Maokong Gondola, or after a day trip along the historic Pingxi Railway Line. It also includes the brand new and very convenient branch of the (all-vegan) Veggie Creek chain inside Taipei 101.  

During the summer (2018) I am completely overhauling the Taipei in Four Days guide, because as the number of restaurants and attractions in Taipei have grown, so too has the guide, to the point that it's no longer a quick read for a short trip to Taiwan. I have removed it from Amazon until after its major overhaul and edit down scheduled for the next couple of months.

Taiwan - A Travel Guide for Vegans ($7.99USD)

Why Vegan Travel Guides? 

Vegan Travel Guides are written with the philosophy that vegans shouldn't need to put up with guidebooks which recommend zoos, steakhouses and dolphinariums. Making the most of a trip to a new country, visiting all the best (cruelty-free) attractions and eating at the top vegan restaurants, all in a limited time, requires a guidebook written by a vegan who is familiar with the country, has visited the city's attractions, eaten at its restaurants and spent months carefully researching and documenting the most efficient itineraries for vegan (or vegetarian) travellers. These itineraries are compiled into affordable, regularly-updated, user-friendly electronic guidebooks. It's no longer necessary to choose between a hungry Lonely Planet walking tour or the best vegan restaurants from Happycow, nor is it necessary to spend hours trying to marry them up, at least for Taiwan. As far as I am aware these are the world's first travel guides written especially for vegans (as opposed to directories of vegan-friendly businesses designed to supplement conventional travel guides).

All the best vegetarian restaurants in Taipei are reviewed (currently totalling about two thirds of all vegan restaurants in Taipei), with photographs, cuisine styles, price ranges, hours etc, along with sights and activities they are best visited with. Of course this guidebook doesn't recommend any cruel forms of entertainment, such as zoos or aquariums.

Quick Links

If you purchased your guide a while before coming to Taiwan, to download maps or to leave feedback please check the  maps, updates, feedback page. I would also appreciate it of readers who find this page could take this quick survey
A more-complete set of photos can be found on the Vegan Travel Guides Facebook page.

Planning at a Glance


Overviews are provided for all outings and their restaurants, so the reader can plan their trip at a glance based on the days of the week and weather forecasts, and choose which restaurants to eat at based on price, cuisine and convenience. This ensures that the visitor will reach both sights and restaurants at suitable times, when they are open, in the right weather conditions, and without encountering unbearable crowds.

Buy or Download Free Sample

  What's in the Two Books?

Taiwan - A Travel Guide for Vegans covers the best and most popular sights and attractions in the northern third or so of the island (which is the focus of travel for the majority of visitors), and is intended as a complete guidebook for first-time visitors who will be here for up to around ten days. Taipei in Four Days (not currently available) includes the same three Taipei itineraries as the first book (itineraries include attractions and restaurants together, ordered by easy access on public transport) and most of the content is the same, but somewhat condensed. Both books include the quaint old Japanese mining towns of Jiufen and Jinguashi, and the full guide continues these on to the hotspring town of Jiaoxi, and then the famous Taroko Gorge. If you will be here for up to four days, I recommend the four-day guide. If you will be here for longer than four days I recommend the larger guide. There is no need (or advantage) in using both. While I hope to cover more of Taiwan in the future, if you will be here for longer than ten days I recommend travelling around the whole island and perhaps visiting some outlying islands, for which an alternative guidebook or online resources will be required.

For a "photo tour" please see this Facebook Post.

Quick Comparison

Overview Taipei in Four Days Taiwan - A Travel Guide for Vegans
Trip length (days) 1-5 4-10
Length (Kindle pages, designed to represent equivalent in a 'real' book) 245 400
Cost (USD)* $4.99 $7.99
View, buy or download free sample on Link
(currently being edited and updated) 

*Unfortunately adds additional charge (usually $2 USD) to users of outside the US, including unfortunately Taiwan. This is above and beyond their usual commissions and is kept by to recover extra costs and taxes involved in selling the book overseas, and is totally beyond my control. There are also issues with buying them from Singapore as a result of Singapore's censorship laws. Please email me if you have any problems.

Central & Southern Taipei

Taiwan (complete guide)
✔Four-day Guide
Due to their proximity to Taipei Main Station, these sights can be visited together or visited before any of the other three Taipei outings.

2-28 Massacre Memorial

Rice Revolution meal

Ooh Cha Cha rice meal
 2-28 Peace Park, 2-28 Peace Memorial Museum, National Taiwan Museum, Daan Forest Park, Ximen Ding, Longshan Temple, Presidential Palace, Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall / Liberty Square, Botanical Gardens.
Rice Revolution, Minder Vegetarian, Ooh Cha Cha, Joy Bar, Mianto
Buy or Download Free Sample

Eastern Taipei

Taiwan (complete guide)
✔Four-day Guide


View from Elephant Mountain

Fruiful Food
Tian Zhuan Zhai Loving Hut
Taipei 101, Elephant Mountain, Sun Yat Sen Memorial Hall, Maokong Gondola, Raohe Street Night Market
Loving Hut (hotpots, Taiwanese, Korean, buffet), Vege Creek, Minder Vegetarian, Fruitful Food, SoulR

Northern Taipei

Taiwan (complete guide)
✔Four-day Guide


Tamsui Waterfront

Lotus Vegetarian
Yummy Vegan House
National Palace Museum, Baoan Temple, Confucius Temple, Taipei Expo Park, Taipei Story House, Taipei Fine Arts Museum, Guandu Temple, Guandu Nature Park, Neitou, Tamsui, Bali
Yummy Vegan House, Tamsui Waterfront Mushroom vendor, Easyhouse Vegetarian, Joufan Taro Balls

Southern Taipei

Taiwan (complete guide)
✔Four-day Guide


Bitan (Xindian River)

About Animals
 @Peace Cafe
National Taiwan University, iVegan (supermarket), Bitan (lake), Cycle path, Wulai (hotsprings)

About Animals, Green Pool Bitan (Green Pool) Loving Hut

Northeast Taiwan


Gold Ecological Park, Jinguashi

Vegan Heaven, Jiaoxi


Towns Taiwan Guide Four-day Guide
Jiufen, Jinguashi
Houtong, Pingxi Railway (Shifen, Pingxi, Jingtong), Jiaoxi (including food shown opposite)
Jingtong, Houtong Mine restaurant

Hualien and Taroko Gorge

Taiwan (complete guide)
Four-day Guide

This includes the only vegan B&B on the Taiwanese mainland (there's also another B&B on Penghu, not covered in this edition) and all necessary information to safely explore and stay in Taroko Gorge. 


Swallow Grotto

Chang Chun Buffet
Take-out for Taroko Gorge
Hualien: Ching Hsou (Japanese) Temple, Gang Tian Temple
Taroko Gorge: Eternal Springs Shrine & Trail, Shakadang Trail, Swallow Grotto, Lushui Trail, Tianxiang (sights and accommodation), Baiyang Waterfall trail
Hualien Loving Hut,  Zhu Pai Vegetarian (buffet), Chang Chun Vegetarian (buffet)

Lion Head Mountain

✔Taiwan (complete guide)

Four-day Guide
Changhua Tang Temple, Lion Head Mountain

This centuries-old Buddhist retreat is a little off the path of these itineraries, but is easily reached with public transport and makes a good final destination before flying out. It covers transport, accommodation at the temple hotel and food options en route from Taipei.

Practical Travel Information

✔Taiwan (complete guide)

Four-day Guide


  • Preparation, packing and timing.
  • History, politics and religion (from a vegan perspective). This chapter is freely available as a sample on my blog here.
  •  Safety, costs, airports, getting around Taipei, luggage storage, languages, electricity, water, wireless internet, prepaid SIM cards, postal system & addresses, accommodation guide, public toilets.

Food and Restaurants

✔Taiwan (complete guide)

Four-day Guide

Chinese symbols and language, chain restaurants (more in the complete guide, as they are less necessary in Taipei), Taiwanese speciality foods, fake meat (why it's not vegan, why everyone thinks it is and what to do about it). Most of this information is of course freely available on this blog, but it can help to have an offline version, and appropriate Chinese characters are interspersed throughout the book as necessary to make communication easier.

What's Not Covered (Yet)

Taichung, Tainan, Kaohsiung, Pingtung (including Kenting Beach) or the (very beautiful) central mountain range. If you have longer than ten days for Taiwan then I recommend purchasing a conventional guidebook and travelling around the island.

If these guidebooks are successful I intend to expand Taiwan, A Travel Guide for Vegans to include all these destinations, and hopefully other less well-known spots, such as B&Bs located on rural organic farms.


Unlike most first-time publishers on Kindle, I didn't request any "sponsored" reviews, because I want the vegan community to judge the value of my work. I waited almost six months for my first book review, and am very grateful for this one.

My First Newspaper Review

Thank you to Han Cheung, journalist with the Taipei Times (Taiwan's best and most widely-read English-language newspaper) for this professional review: "Navigating the Vegan Heart of Asia". Mr Cheung's review is mostly positive with a few fair criticisms, mostly over the layout. He concludes that the book "gets the job done as a comprehensive tool for the visiting vegan".

Another Professional Review

Thank you very much to John Ross from Bookish Asia for another professional review. Bookish.Asia specialises in reviews of books about East Asia. In this fair and helpful review (helpful to potential readers, and to myself) John describes the book as "sure to be of great benefit to vegan and vegetarian visitors", and complements the author as being "not a blinkered cheerleader, and he doesn’t pull punches about the ugliness of the urban areas, or in dismissing restaurants not worth eating at", while rightly noting its limited coverage (northern Taiwan) and the spelling and grammatical mistakes, which are something I certainly need to improve on but especially struggle with given the regular updates to the book.

Who are these Books For?

These books are recommended for first-time, English-speaking travellers to Taiwan who will be here for up to two weeks. If you will have more than this I recommend purchasing another guidebook or using online travel resources, buying a rail pass and travelling around Taiwan.


New residents will probably find the book useful, however Taiwanese and long-term residents who speak some Chinese will not learn much new from this book.


Most of Taipei's vegan restaurants are among the most popular for vegetarians and vegans alike, especially foreigners, since they serve a more international cuisine than most traditional vegetarian restaurants and noodle stalls.  Also, a government survey in 2009 found that over half of several samples of fake meat contained real meat. This is (as far as I am aware) the only guide to deal with this problem, which of course affects vegetarians and vegans equally.

Vegetarians may find this book preferable to a conventional guidebook, most of whose recommend restaurants serve little if anything vegetarian; even the Lonely Planet doesn't recommend any of Taipei's top vegetarian restaurants and it doesn't appear that they've even consulted Happycow listings in selecting their recommendations.

This book is, however, written from a vegan perspective, so while it includes all vegan restaurants and most of the best vegetarain restaurants in Taipei, it doesn't include restaurants which aren't vegan-friendly. My suggestion to vegetarians would be to use this guidebook for your basic travel and planning and consult Happycow (Taipei, Xindian, Jiaoxi, Hualien) if you would like to find additional vegetarian restaurants which are not included in this guide.

Jains, Hindus, Jews, Muslims?

Most non-vegetarian restaurants here use lard oil, probably from cows, and even "vegetarian" restaurants usually use a lot of cheese, which virtually always contains rennet from cows (I've never heard of vegetarian cheese being used here, as most vegetarians don't worry about small amounts of non-veg ingredients. Vegans here, however, take veganism very seriously, and I would therefore recommend that all Jains and Hindus (vegetarian or those who just avoid eating cows) eat at vegan restaurants. Also, while there are a few sources of Halal meat it's very rare, and by far the easiest and safest option for Muslims and orthodox Jews.


I have been overwhelmed by the enthusiasm and support from many Taiwanese in my writing this guide. However, as a travel guide, it's unlikely to be much use to local people who are familiar with the country's culture and infrastructure and who can read and speak Chinese. Of course anyone is welcome to purchase a copy, but it is intended for foreign visitors unfamiliar with the country and language. I would be very grateful if everyone could share this with vegan, vegetarian or health-conscious friends and family overseas who may be interested in visiting Taiwan.

Why use Guidebooks at All?

An increasing number of people don't use guidebooks, and some people consider them outdated. It's certainly possible to plan a trip to Taiwan using Tripadvisor, Happycow (Taipei, Taiwan) and perhaps my own commercial Formosa Guide website, and learn how to find vegan food using this blog.

However, I believe that the time saved by having one concise, offline guidebook makes it worthwhile for most travellers, especially when it's specifically written for vegans. Even the most skilled and diligent planner is unlikely to take into account as many considerations as someone who lives in the country and spends months undertaking careful research, visiting all the top restaurants and destinations. Secondly, most people spend a lot of money on an overseas trip and want to make the most of it, so the time saved (both planning and on the trip itself) should easily justify a few dollars for a guidebook. For many visitors the cost of the guidebook will probably be offset by cheaper and more efficient travel options explained in the guidebook, or by being able to plan to eat at inexpensive restaurants more easily. A simple price key used for all restaurants (including in the overviews) makes this process especially easy.

Planning around opening hours, busy weekends and the weather is stress-free with Vegan Travel Guides.

It works Offline

Taiwanese are very tech-savvy, and Taipei was the first city in the world to introduce city-wide free WiFi. I explain how to use it and how to buy a prepaid data-enabled SIM card in the book, but I still think there's value in having everything offline, in one place. I list names and addresses in Chinese (and English) of all destinations in this guide, so it's easy to stop and ask someone the way or show a taxi where you want to go without having to stop and connect to free wifi or try to Google something in another language. You can even read the book and plan your trip on the plane (check the weather forecast first).

Buy or Download Free Sample: Full Guide / Four Day Edition


This map: Eastern Taipei
Maps are made using Google Maps Engine, are reproduced in their original form (in accordance with Google's Terms and Conditions). They are all available (free) here. On larger devices maps are perfectly usable as they are, however they also link directly to Google Maps, which open either in a browser (preferable) or Google Maps, depending on your device's settings. These work better on smaller devices (smartphones) and have the advantage of showing the user's location.

As of 2018, I am reducing the number of maps, and instead have a link for every destination which opens in Google Maps with directions from the user's current location (intended for a tablet or mobile phone with data access). 

Taiwan's complicated but highly efficient address system is also explained, but for the short-term visitor it's often easiest to just get as close as possible on public transport, show the address in Chinese (always provided in this guidebook) to a passer-by and ask for directions. Taiwanese are exceptionally friendly and helpful to foreigners, and in Taipei an English-speaker will always appear almost immediately and be keen to help.

Buy or Download Free Sample: Full Guide / Four Day Edition

Why Kindle (E-books)?

I understand that some people prefer traditional (printed) guidebooks, and that Amazon's Kindle is not the only platform for distributing electronic books. First, I endeavour to keep my guidebook updated, and this is obviously much more practical with electronic versions. I also regularly edit my books in response to suggestions by friends and readers. Also, most people buy a guidebook before leaving home, and printing and sending books internationally would by prohibitively expensive for many travellers. I am, however, planning to set up Print On Demand, in which customers can order the latest version of either book and Amazon will print a copy and send it out. These are of rather low quality, especiallythe photographs, but perfectly functional for a utilitarian book like a travel guide.

These images are composite images (because photographing a back-lit screen is very difficult) but they look identical to how it actually looks on this device.

Formatting a book for any electronic distribution system requires many hours (or days) of work, and Amazon's Kindle platform is by far the most popular. It also works very well on virtually all electronic devices, and books are automatically reformatted for all sized screens. The font size can easily be adjusted to suit the reader (small fonts are shown here as examples). The Kindle app can be downloaded (free) for Android and iOS, and once paid for books can be downloaded instantly and read on several different devices simultaneously. I strongly recommend installing the Kindle App and downloading the book on both a tablet and a smartphone. Read the book on the plane on your tablet (Samsung Galaxy Tab, iPad etc) but have it ready on your smartphone to quickly check which station to get off at, or to pass to a taxi driver to show an address in Chinese. On phones it's best to click the map captions to open them in Google Maps so that you can use the zoom function. 

Why Not Use the Lonely Planet?

Perhaps my greatest difficulty with this project is convincing people that my guidebook, written by 'some stranger on the internet with a blog', will be more useful than their trusted Lonely Planet. But Lonely Planet staff don't care about vegans (or vegetarians) at all: their guide to Taiwan barely recommends any of Taipei's best vegan or even vegetarian restaurants. I doubt they even consulted Happycow listings in making their selections, let alone tried any themselves.

Vegans who eat fish should be fine with the Lonely Planet. But vegans who expect their guidebook authors to have the slightest idea what they actually do and don't eat might want to consider something else. (And no, most organic shops in Japan don't offer anything vegan either.) Photo: Lonely Planet, Japan
Worse still, the Lonely Planet is dangerously misleading: for years many foreigners in Taiwan (including myself) believed that the ubiquitous fake meat is vegan, because the Lonely Planet authors say so, when in fact it usually contains dairy products, egg and often real meat. Even instructions on how to find vegetarian restaurants are wrong: the Lonely Planet instructs its loyal readers to look for the 'reverse savastika', whereas in reality only a small proportion of restaurants use it. But virtually all vegetarian restaurants use these common vegetarian symbols. Thousands of visitors must have missed tens of thousands of restaurants because of this. If they could have been bothered it would have taken the authors five minutes to  learn these correct symbols from any Taiwanese vegetarian.

Both these vegetarian restaurants use the common vegetarian symbols, which are used by most vegetarian restaurants in Taiwan (this and their newer equivalents are all explained in the book). Only the restaurant on the rights uses the 'reverse swastika', which is used by about ten per cent of vegetarian restaurants and is recommended by the Lonely Planet as the best way to find a vegetarian restaurant.

In this book (and here on my blog) I summarise how to find restaurants and the world's best vegetarian labelling system. On the first page is a quick reference guide, including all these symbols and instructions in Chinese to order vegan food at restaurants or to ask for help to find it at convenience stores. However, this book lists all trustworthy vegan restaurants in Taipei (and a few of the best and most vegan-friendly vegetarian restaurants) along with sights and activities they are best visited with, so with these carefully-planned itineraries it shouldn't be necessary to eat at any non-vegetarian restaurants at all.

Secondly, anyone who trusts the Lonely Planet should read Do Travel Writers Go to Hell, in which former LP author and whistleblower Thomas Kohnstamm explains that staff aren't paid enough to even cover their basic travel expenses, let alone earn a living, and that they instead earn their money from bribes and "freebies" (usually accommodation, food, alcohol and sometimes other "services") in exchange for recommending hotels and restaurants. This could explain why they are so bad for vegetarians and vegans: authors are unlikely to be vegetarian, so vegetarian restaurants are unable to 'earn' their listings by offering the writers free meals, and most restaurants are probably too small to be able to bribe them by other means.

My books contain no advertisements in any form. I always pay for meals in full, and never accept or would accept any form of incentives for listings or recommendations in this guidebook or on any of my blogs or websites.

Buy or Download Free Sample: Full Guide / Four Day Edition

Culture, History, Politics and Religion

Personally when I travel I like to know a little about the culture and history of where I'm travelling, especially any connections to vegetarianism. In this guidebook I summarise the history of Taiwan (in a more condensed version than the previous book) and Taiwan's complicated political situation, to help the reader understand (for example) why it's offensive to refer to Taiwanese as "Chinese" despite the fact that their passport says "Republic of China" and the airline you may well arrive on is called "China Airlines".

An I Kuan Tao altar in a family home. While it's little known outside of Taiwan, owners of most Chinese vegetarian restaurants around the world are run by devout followers of Taiwan's third largest religion.

I also describe the main religious groups in Taiwan, three of which promote vegetarianism. The original form of this article is (free) here. In the Lonely Planet I Kuan Tao, the third largest religion in the country, whose members own at least half of the country's vegetarian restaurants, is dismissed as a "cult" in one sentence. Supreme Master Ching Hai, whose followers run virtually all of Taiwan's vegan restaurants, does not even get a mention. Of course if you're not interested in any of this being an electronic book it's easy to skip this chapter, and it doesn't add any extra 'weight'.

How About Happycow?

Use Happycow! I'm the "Happycow Ambassador" (volunteer contact person) for Taipei, and have added or updated all the restaurants I've come across in my many months of writing these guidebooks. If you just want to know about restaurants then this book is not for you, and I recommend Happycow (TaipeiTaiwan) perhaps along with this blog.

But if you are travelling to Taipei, especially for the first time, then this guidebook should replace your conventional guidebook (eg Lonely Planet). And it integrates with Happycow, fitting restaurants and attractions into the same outings and displaying them on all on the same maps (which link to Google Maps - see above). This book covers where to go in Taipei, when, how to get around, language (of course vegan-specific), accommodation, safety and everything else traditionally covered by travel guidebooks.

Both books review all of Taipei's vegan restaurants (and the best vegetarian restaurants), along with cuisine style, price range, a photo, a brief description and review, opening hours, websites and addresses (in Chinese and English, and public transport directions). And their Happycow reviews are just a click away.

Buy or Download Free Sample: Full Guide / Four Day Edition


I have personally visited all destinations and eaten at all restaurants recommended in this guide (except one, as stated in the guide). I never identify myself as a guidebook writer, and only occasionally introduce myself as a blogger when I need to ask for more information than a regular customer would. This guidebook contains no advertisements in any form. I always pay for my meals in full and have never and would never take any form of incentives for listings or recommendations, here or on any of my blogs. All photographs are my own.

Have a Great Trip to Taiwan!

Taiwan is Asia's most underrated travel destination. Having been ruled by several countries over the centuries it has a wide variety of cultural and historic sights and attractions. Taipei has a modern, reliable, inexpensive public transport system, and Taiwanese are exceptionally warm and friendly towards foreign visitors. Most people in Taipei speak English and are happy to help foreigners, and most signs are bilingual. Taiwan is also very safe, with violent very rare, especially towards foreigners. Taiwan has an infrastructure comparable to Japan prices comparable to Thailand.

Taiwan is also the vegan heart of Asia, with over a dozen vegan restaurants in Taipei having opened in the last few years, and in built-up areas there's usually a vegetarian restaurant within walking distance. Even the ubiquitous 7-Eleven convenience stores sell frozen vegan meals, which they can microwave on the spot. Taipei is one of very few destinations in the world where it's possible to set up for a day's sightseeing without having to even think about where you'll eat, and with this guide there will always be plenty to choose from. I wish you a safe and enjoyable trip to the country that has become my second home.


  1. Hi Jesse,

    Thank you for putting in all this hard work into creating such wonderful and helpful guides.

    I would really like to get a copy of the 10-day vegan guide as I will be travelling to Taipei in two weeks' time, but I can't seem to be able to buy the ebook on Amazon. I am getting this error: "This title is not currently available for purchase".

    I also noticed that the edition listed on Amazon is the older edition published last year.

    Is there any other way I could buy the guide from you?

    Thank you very much!

  2. Hey! Really fantastic blogwork! We love Taiwan and also wrote some articles about vegetarian / vegan food there. If you speak German or have a good translator, go check it out:

    We'd really like to have your opinion on food outside restaurants. We always prefered eating at markets or street stands in Taiwan, because it's cheaper and seemed somehow more authentic to us. It's hard to give good advises where to go though, because sometimes they're moving...what do you think? Any places or street food you'd recommend?

    Thank you very much!

    Paul & Cori

    1. Hi Paul & Cori
      I hope you had a good time here.
      I know a small number of foreigners and a smaller number of Taiwanese who eat street food in preference, but I personally worry a little about the safety, especially with the heat and lack of running water. I also wouldn't say it's more authentic as restaurants have been part of Chinese and Japanese culture (the two countries which have influenced Taiwan the most) for centuries (unlike say SE Asia, where eating on the street is often the norm). Many night markets serve stinky tofu, and most say it's vegan, but I would never trust it because it's often made with rotten meat and egg. The fruit drinks should be fine too, but otherwise for good street food I would honestly say go to Vietnam, Thailand etc.
      I hope you have (or by now had, sorry) a great time here! Please let me know if I Can help with anything.


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